Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lemony goodness (can't help but smile)

Some nights you've just gotta eat your optimism, you know? Last night called for a brightening of spirits, and so our dear friend the lemon came to the rescue, in the form of Caesar Salad and Chicken Piccata.


I've been craving a Caesar salad lately, in part because there's nothing like that crisp, green, tangy crunch, but also because of this recent Savour post on the "controversial classic." There, Kate defends the humble anchovy as a must-do. I'm fine with anchovies (you might remember that I wrote about them here), but as my partner in crime isn't a huge fan, we compromise: we use them in dressings, but not as components of the dish. And I'll remind you what I said about them regarding Green Goddess Dressing: anchovies add so much depth of flavor to any dressing that I consider them to be irreplaceable. Give them a try before you judge. But onto Caesar, yes?

Compromise Caesar Salad
Adapted from Tyler Florence

(Why just a photo of the Caesar dressing, you ask? Because it's so good I wanted to stop there and eat it as dip with croutons, that's why. Also, my leafy green photos came out terribly blurry.)

This recipe makes enough for a dinner party, so I suggest cutting it in half if you don't want to have lots of leftovers.

1 clove garlic, smashed with a pinch of salt and a little olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 lemons, juiced (I used two gourgeous Meyer lemons - I like the subtlety that variety imparts to dressings. Whatever type of lemon you use, make sure they are small-ish ones, otherwise your dressing will be too acidic.)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce
A few handfuls of freshly-made croutons (If you're not making your own, check out your local bakery for some - Central Market's are delicious if you're in Texas)

Make the dressing: Smear the garlic paste over the inside of the salad bowl. Put the anchovies, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and water into a blender/food processor and process for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify. Stir in the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper; set aside. (Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.)

Assemble the salad: Tear the lettuce into a large bowl. Add enough dressing to coat the salad to your liking. Add some extra Parmesan and the croutons and toss the salad well. Serve immediately.


And now our main dish:

The combination of chicken, lemon, and capers is one of my favorite flavors. Chicken piccata is such a homey dish to me, and absolutely one of our household favorites. Sometimes I use artichokes or white wine in this dish, but last night I made it as it's written, although I upped the recipe a tad to use six chicken breasts instead of four (I've warned you I cook for an army; leftovers are our friends). This is a Giada recipe, and I know she bugs a lot of people (what with the heaving cleavage and forthcoming Target line and all), but you know what? I like Giada's recipes. Her "Everyday Italian" is a great source for simple Italian dishes, perfect for weeknight cooking. You can always adapt the recipes to dress them up a bit, or seek out other cooks for more authentic or complex dishes, but I'm telling ya: Giada's chicken piccata is simply delicious... and it's absolutely simple to prepare. On harried weeknights, I love that kind of dinnertime ease.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis


2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes*. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

(I like an additional squirt of fresh lemon juice on the finished platter as well)

*If you have large pans like I do, ignore the "only two at a time" rule and you're done quite a bit faster than if you used this method. You also end up using less butter and olive oil, although your chicken won't be quite as browned.


  1. I love chicken piccata! Now I'm starving for lunch :)

  2. I used to wait tables at a restaurant where we would have to make ceasar salad dressing table side and it was sooo good! Of course I dreading having to make it for customers b/c it messed up all my other tables...but I should totally make this at home! Looks like a good meal:)

  3. Caesar salads are one of my all time favorite foods- when I am 75 (my designated age to stop worrying about health and figure and eat foolishly), I shall have chocolate cake and real raw egg-y caesars full of anchovies every day.

    I will also trust you enough to overcome my Giada feelings to try the picatta. MMmmmm. (As I pick at quinoa with veggies detox lunch).

  4. That's the chicken piccata recipe *I* use too! I really like the butter & olive oil combination. I like Giada - because my husband actually enjoys watching her show, too! Wonder why? He really loves it when she whisks.

  5. Sounds delicious!

    Have you ever made Giadia's salmon brodetto with mashed peas?!

    It's one of my very favorites ... even if she pulls out her fake Italian accent too much on her show, I still enjoy her recipes. : )

  6. *drool*
    I love Giada's recipes! Now I'm totally hungry. What a lovely dinner you made. :)

  7. Love: Giada, lemon, chicken piccata, upcoming TARGET LINE OMG WHAT??!! Hate: Anchovies. But I might just try them next time I make salad because my palate trusts you. I wish I could come over for dinner.

  8. I'm such a chicken piccata fan, though I must admit I've never made it. It was a big staple in my home growing up, so I have become spoiled by my Mom's version. I'm in the midst of making a kitchen "to make" list for the year, and Chicken Piccata is surely going on it.


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